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Old 02-29-2016, 02:42 AM   #121
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Chapter 8 – Paul

September was a beautiful month in the mountains. The days were clear and crisp, the nights were just starting to get slightly chilly. Carrie and Suzanna found themselves using Carrie's balconies and Suzanna's porch quite a bit in the evenings, laughing at the cats' antics, poring over catalogs, listening to the public radio station, or just chatting about their day. Little Belle was still absorbing as much information as she could from the Internet and her home-schooling lessons and the older cats as she continued to grow.

One evening in the middle of September, the cats came racing to the balcony.

"Look," said Meows, pointing down the street. "There's a very large limo parked at the B&B, blocking the drive. Did you have a VIP coming in tonight?"

"Not that I know of," said Suzanna, frowning. She set her teacup down and began to get up when her cell phone rang. Grabbing it from her purse, she flipped it open. "It's Sunshine Inn."

Suzanna stepped away from the table and strained her eyes toward the B&B.

"WHAT?!" she erupted suddenly. "Call the police. I'll be right there."

She snapped the phone shut. Carrie got up, and the cats raced ahead through the cat doors and waited by the apartment's front door.

"What's wrong?" asked Carrie.

"Some woman is down there insisting on a room, and apparently she kicked Sunshine." She clenched her jaw. "If he is hurt, whoever this broad is will wish she'd never even gotten out of bed today."

Three pairs of cat eyes narrowed, three sets of cat ears flattened, and three fur coats crawled with rage. They waited irritably while the women put their cups in the sink and filed out the door. Once outside, the cats bolted toward the B&B, not waiting to ride with Suzanna and Carrie. They would beat them there.

The cats waited on the back porch as Suzanna and Carrie pulled up in Suzanna's cottage driveway. The limo was blocking the entrance to the B&B parking lot, and they couldn't get in there. The cats froze when they saw who it was. That weird, icy woman with the yappy poodle who had come into the shop months ago demanding that the cats get out was now standing in the big foyer, demanding a room this time. The poodle started yapping and barking when it saw the cats, who again hissed and fluffed up. Meows hadn't seen her before, but knew instinctively this woman was bad news. Bart and Belle would never forget her. The guest who had Sunshine sat with him in his lap, comforting him, and Suzanna flew to her cat.

"His side seems to hurt him. He got a vicious kick," said the man, putting him in her arms. "I'm so sorry, it happened so fast and I was just too late in seeing what was happening."

Suzanna cuddled Sunshine, but Carrie frowned.

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Old 02-29-2016, 02:46 AM   #122
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"Suzanna, it's not all that late. Let me call Dr. Wyatt. He does emergencies, and he can check him out tonight -- just to be on the safe side. You go kill that woman. I'll take care of Sunshine," said Carrie.

Overcome with worry and rage, Suzanna let Carrie take Sunshine from her.

"Okay," she said, and marched up to the welcoming desk where the woman stood, loudly railing at the shocked teenaged girl behind the desk.

"Excuse me," said Suzanna. The woman ignored her, and kept her tirade going at the girl.

"EXCUSE ME," she repeated, very loudly.

"And just who the hell are you?" asked the woman.

"The owner of this inn. You kicked my cat, and your land yacht out there is blocking my guests' access to the drive. The police are on the way, you will be charged with animal abuse and preventing entrance and egress to a commercial establishment and anything else I can come up with," Suzanna said firmly. "That is who the hell I am."

"Oh please," the woman scoffed at her. "You'll do no such thing. I will OWN you if you try anything that foolish. Now give me a room."

Own her? Suzanna's eyes blazed. Oh really now?

"I knew it," hissed Bart to Belle. "I had a feeling this one would be bad news. Only I thought she might do something to Carrie."

Belle's kitten tail lashed and Meows's fur rose even higher. Bart growled.

"No, I will not give you a room, and no, I will not be owned by anyone. You or anyone else. Who all saw this happen?" Suzanna asked around the immediate area, as a few guests were there. Four guests came forward and two of the staff, plus the girl at the desk, said they had also seen it.

"Would you please explain what you saw to the police?" she asked.

They would be more than happy to. The guests said they'd even come back to town and testify in court if Suzanna needed them to.

The woman watched all of this in scoffing amusement. "My lawyers will tear you people to shreds," she laughed derisively.

"Don't bet the farm on it," snapped Suzanna, just as two police officers strode in. Suzanna turned just in time to see Carrie slipping out the door with Sunshine, and said a quick prayer. Then she turned her attention to the events at hand.

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Old 02-29-2016, 02:51 AM   #123
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"...so, anyway, she got charged, and now I have another court date," said Suzanna later that night as she and Carrie sat at her kitchen table with hot tea and shortbread cookies.

"Well, at least Sunshine will be okay...in time," Carrie assured her. Poor Sunshine lay in a cage at the vet with two cracked ribs and a dislocated front left leg. Dr. Wyatt had put the leg back in place and wrapped the ribcage as best he could, then gave him some sedating medication so that he would not move much for a while. In time, he would heal just fine, but right now he was hurting and needed his rest.

"Poor baby. I hope this doesn't make him afraid of people, but who could blame him if it did? The fellow that had him tonight felt so sad, he even told the police it was his fault he got kicked. I tried to tell him it was not his fault, but nothing I said seemed to get through." Suzanna sighed.
Carrie shook her head. "Why did she kick him, anyway?"

"She said he was upsetting her dog, and she was afraid Sunshine would somehow leap up there and eat the poodle, and she says she shoved him away with her foot, not kicking him. But everyone said it was a solid kick and it sent Sunshine tumbling into the bottom stair, and he just lay there for a second or two, stunned, until the guy who had him ran over and picked him up. I felt like choking that woman."

"Me too," said Carrie.

"You don't want to know what I felt like doing to her," Meows muttered darkly.

"I hear that," agreed Bart.

Belle snarled and lashed her tail. She hadn't said a lot since the incident, and she was still bristling with rage. Bart suddenly realized Belle didn't just have an attitude, but she had a temper. Good, he thought, you never know. That might save her life someday.

Two days later, Sunshine returned to Suzanna's care, seeming none the worse from his experience. He limped a tiny bit, but that would go away soon, and it was thought best not for him to be handled too much for a few weeks or so, until the soreness went away and the ribs and leg healed. He rested in the cottage and feasted on extra tidbits from Lowery's Porch, and cuddled with Suzanna on the big bed. The guest who had him that night he was kicked came to see him before he left, and he seemed relieved to know that Sunshine would be all right.

The same man came back on a rainy afternoon in early October, and showed up at the B&B to see if a room was available. Fortunately for him, Suzanna had a cancellation that morning, and was glad to give him the room,
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Old 02-29-2016, 02:56 AM   #124
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complete with a cat. Sunshine ran to him, purring. His name was Paul Draper, and that afternoon before dinner, he sat in the Friendship Parlor with Suzanna and Sunshine hearing about Sunshine's recovery.

"I see you're from the city," said Suzanna. "What brings you out here again?"

Paul laughed. "Well, you know what? I'm not sure. I just retired early, and I'm looking for a nice place to live where I can just sit back and write."

"Oh. What are you wanting to write about?"

He scratched Sunshine's chin. "I'm working on an historical account of this area around the early 1900s right now. When was this place built?"

"It started out as a boarding house in 1905, and over the century, it was added to and redone several times. I'm not even sure how much of it is original, or if any of it is. Even most of the foundation has been replaced," she replied.

"It's very interesting. Where's the library?"

"The public library or the B&B one?"

He smiled. "The public one."

"Oh. Across the street and turn left, two blocks. There's a map of downtown in the foyer if you need one."

"Thanks, I'll get one. Do you know or can you point me in the direction of a good realtor?"
"Definitely. The one I went to is straight up Second Street in the only brick building on that block. I'll mark it on the map for you; you can't miss it," Suzanna offered.

"How's the area just outside the town limits? From what I've seen, it's absolutely beautiful. The mountains are just dazzling in the fall, and some of those views are incredible."

"Just as you described it. Real estate-wise, I don't know. I think it depends on what you want."

Paul thought about that. "I need a pretty big place. I have two grown kids and three grandchildren, so I need something with some room, inside and out."
Suzanna looked at him. Carrie's house hadn't sold yet; two potential buyers had backed out at the last minute.

"How does four bedrooms, three and a half baths, dining room, living room, office and family room, four-car garage, almost five thousand square feet on seven acres straight up the side of a mountain with an unbelievable view grab you?" she asked.

"How much?"
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Old 02-29-2016, 03:00 AM   #125
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"Half a million. It's prime property, and has a beautiful creek running through it.”

"Who's got it?"

"My best friend," she laughed. "She owns the antique store two blocks down."

He laughed too. "Well, when do I get to meet her?"

Suzanna looked at her watch. "In about ten minutes. It's five-fifteen, and she'll be along as soon as she closes up. It's an enormous log home and I think it might be what you're looking for. Not a neighbor in sight." She noticed his wedding ring. "Does your wife like log homes?"

He looked away. "I'm - not really married any more. My wife died last year. I just don't want to take my ring off."

Suzanna could have slapped herself. "I'm very sorry, Paul. I didn't mean to pry. But if you're looking for a place to begin again, this is the place to do it. I did, last year. Carrie - the one with the store you're going to meet - started over here too, although she had been here for years."

"That's pretty much why I'm here, too. And, I'm fifty-five...the traffic and crap in the city is really starting to get on my nerves and I need out."

"Oh you aren't kidding about that!" smiled Suzanna. "It drove me nuts too. Ah, here she comes."

A red Subaru station wagon was pulling up the drive, and he leaned forward in his chair. In a moment, Carrie breezed in the big double front doors.

"Carrie!" Suzanna called. "In here! I got someone in here you need to talk to..."

The two women watched as Paul walked around the house, admiring it and asking questions.

"The furniture comes with it," said Carrie. He raised an eyebrow.

"The less stuff I have to move, the better. You only want half a million for it? The place is huge," he said.

Carrie nodded. "That's pretty much what we have in it."

"I want it," Paul said simply. "It's exactly what I need."

Carrie and Suzanna exchanged a glance. "Don't you want to look at other places?" asked Carrie.

"What for? This is perfect for me. Anything else would kind of be a waste of time. Besides," he smiled, "I don't have a room for tomorrow night, so I will probably have to go home, and I'll need to return soon to close on it and all."
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Old 02-29-2016, 03:05 AM   #126
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"Oh dear." Suzanna looked distressed. "I'm booked solid through the New Year."

Paul smiled. "I'm glad it's so successful. I'll get a room somewhere. Know any place that takes pets?"

"The Stony River Inn does," said Carrie. "You have a dog?"

"No. A cat," he said, grinning. "The biggest, fattest, most spoiled Manx tabby cat you ever saw."

Suzanna laughed, and Carrie rolled her eyes.

"Of course you'd have a cat," smiled Carrie.

"That's why I like having Sunshine so much. I'm so glad he wasn't reserved tonight," said Paul.

"He really likes you," said Suzanna.

Paul looked around again and sighed. "I wish Molly -- my wife -- could see this. She'd be all over me to buy it."

"You'll be happy here," said Carrie, looking around a little wistfully. "I had many happy years here, and so will you."

"Thank you." He offered her his hand. "Consider it sold at your price. Your friend there can be a witness."

"Welcome home," Carrie smiled, and shook his hand.

"Geez! I'm soooooo glad that's over!" Carrie plopped down a pile of papers on Suzanna's desk in the little cottage. "I forgot what it's like to close on a house."

"Well, it's over, and his check didn't bounce. Now what are you going to do with that money?" smiled Suzanna, putting the papers in an envelope and sealing it. They were copies of the paperwork for the sale of Carrie's house she was keeping in case Carrie somehow lost hers and needed them.

"Well, I was going to sit on it a while and think about it. I don't know. I do want to redo the shop a little and replace that damn front door to it. That thing still sticks and squeaks and it's driving me nuts."

"That's smart," her friend nodded. Meows came in, licking his whiskers. "Thank you for bringing the goodies, Carrie. That was delicious."

Bart and Belle came in behind him. "Sure was," said Bart.

Belle burped. "I liked the peas. Those are good."

Bart rolled his eyes. "A vegetarian cat. What an embarrassment."

Belle crossed her eyes at him and stuck out her tongue. "You have no idea what you're missing," she said and sauntered out, going for Meows's laptop in the next room.

Carrie and Suzanna laughed.

"Little thing is just full of attitude," said Carrie.
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Old 02-29-2016, 03:10 AM   #127
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"I have another name for it," glowered Bart, following Belle out.

"I bet you do," said Carrie.

The cats headed for the laptop, and Suzanna logged off her computer. It was six o'clock on a Friday night after a hectic week, and neither one of the women felt like cooking. It was the day after Thanksgiving, and the day before, everyone was at Ralph's cooking and serving Thanksgiving dinners again. The five cats played on the computer and with each other upstairs in Carrie's apartment, staying out of the way of busy feet and getting plates heaped with tempting delights. Paul helped too, early in the day, and then went home to greet his children and grandchildren who arrived to see him and stay through the weekend. It had been a wonderful day, but tiring.

"Too bad Thanksgiving doesn't occur on Sundays," sighed Suzanna. The phone rang, and she picked it up.

It was Joyce. She had fixed a nice London Broil and scalloped potatoes for dinner, and the couple down her street she had invited had gotten called into work at the last minute. The London Broil still had ten minutes to go and so did the potatoes.

"So here I am with all this yummy stuff," Joyce said. "You girls have any plans for dinner?"

"Coming over there and having London Broil and scalloped potatoes sounds like a plan," laughed Suzanna. Carrie nodded.

"Come on over," she said. "Bring the cats. Pook and Saav will love that."

"We will. See you in a bit," said Suzanna, and hung up.

"Well. That solved that little problem, didn't it?" said Carrie.

"Sure did. Let's go stuff ourselves and a few cats."

"Ohhh...I ate too much," groaned Carrie, flopping on the couch in Joyce's livingroom. Suzanna squeezed in between Carrie and Joyce.

"You're not the only one," sighed Suzanna.

"I guess popcorn with our movie is out," remarked Joyce. Suzanna threw a pillow at her.

"Aaaarrrrrggggh," Suzanna snarled with a smile.

Carrie poured the sparkling grape juice into the crystal goblets, and they made a toast to the cats. Joyce hit the play button on the remote, and the three women's favorite movie appeared on the screen; Gone With The Wind.

"This movie would bore Justin to tears," said Joyce. “I can’t watch stuff like this with him.”

"Why? It's a classic!" Carrie replied.
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Old 02-29-2016, 03:21 AM   #128
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"I guess there aren't enough dragons and light sabres and spaceships and stuff in it," Joyce said.

"Oh. Well, they have cannonballs and bullets and plenty of blood and suffering. You'd think that would be somewhat appealing," giggled Suzanna.

Joyce laughed. "Yeah, you'd think so."

Saav jumped up on the coffeetable and sniffed Suzanna's glass, then belched.

"Dinner was good," she said.

"I can tell," smiled Carrie.

Pook joined her, and sniffed at Carrie's glass. "Gaaaahhhhh! You actually going to drink that or use it to clean the oven?" she asked, wrinkling her nose.

"Seems to me the stuff could remove paint too," added Saav.

"Grape juice critics," sighed Suzanna.

Meows appeared in the doorway. "The dinner was delightful, Joyce. You are a most competent cook."

Joyce laughed. "Thank you, Meows."

"You're welcome, he replied, padding in and jumping on Suzanna's lap.

Bart came in, settling on the floor in front of the piano for a wash-up. Belle poked her head around the corner from the kitchen.

"Hey, you guys going to eat any more of your salad or potatoes?" she asked.

"No," the four cats chorused.

"Knock yourself out," said Pook.

"Thanks!" Belle said gleefully, and disappeared back into the kitchen.

"Is that really normal?" Joyce asked Carrie.

"NO," said Bart loudly from the floor. "And it's not my fault she doesn't know she's a carnivore!"

"I HEARD that!" Belle yelled from the kitchen around a mouthful of salad.

"GOOD!" Bart said even louder, rolling his eyes. Belle's affinity for vegetables drove him insane at times, and he really found this unnerving in a feline.

They heard a strange noise from the kitchen, a cross between a hiss and a sneeze. Bart's eyes widened and he flattened his ears.

"Woooooooooo! Bart got raspberried again," giggled Saav.
Pook snickered. Joyce and Suzanna looked at Carrie.

"She raspberries everybody lately," Carrie said with a shrug.
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Old 02-29-2016, 04:30 AM   #129
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"Dang, what a 'tude!" laughed Joyce. "She's a feisty little thing, isn't she?"

Carrie nodded. "She even raspberries stoplights."

Suzanna giggled. "Feline road rage."

"Well, I hiss at tourists," said Pook. "And stoplights are just as annoying, so I think that's cool."

Saav glared at her. "You would. You even hiss at Mom’s friend Lorraine when she comes over."

"I don't like her. Plus, she hissed at me first, remember? She started it," Pook defended herself.

Saav shook her head. "You're weird."

"I'm weird? You're the one who's weird. You have to have all the faucets on in the house so you can drink out of the taps, and you say I'm weird?"

"The dog sticks her paws in the water dish sometimes," said Saav. "That's gross! Who wants to drink water a dog has been splashing around in?"

"Geez! It's not bad, Mom keeps it fresh. Plus, you snore, break wind, and roll all over me when you sleep."

"I do NOT snore," protested Saav.

"Amazing she didn't object to breaking wind," muttered Carrie.

"Yeah, that would have been my first choice," agreed Suzanna.

Saav looked at the humans on the couch with an I'm-trying-to-be-tolerant stare. "Of course I didn't object to that. I have that down to an art. Pook, you drool worse than the dog when you sleep."

"I do not," Pook snarled.

"Yes you do. And you always have litternose. Mom even took a picture of you having litternose," retorted Saav.

Pook gave her sister a nasty look. Saav glared back, flattening her ears. She belched again.

"You two might want to calm down," suggested Bart. "If you try to kill each other now, you both will be revisiting some London Broil."

"Enter the voice of reason," smiled Meows from Suzanna's lap.

"Just in time to save me a mess to clean up," Joyce smiled.

"I just thought of something," said Carrie. "We have five talking cats between us and we pay what for cable TV?"

"Really," nodded Bart. "Like we're not entertaining enough? Please."

"Well, the Weather Channel is nice," said Joyce.

Pook rolled her eyes. "Bah! We can predict the weather by just sniffing the wind."
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Old 02-29-2016, 10:24 PM   #130
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Meows shrugged. "I think TV is overrated anyway. Seems like there's a lot of junk on there that is anything but enlightening."

Belle came in and flopped on the floor. "There's some good programs you can learn from on TV. History Channel's good, and Animal Planet is cool. I like Discovery too."

Meows smiled. "As long as you can drain information out of it, you like it, Belle."

"Why not? I like to learn," said Belle.

"We would have never guessed," Bart quipped.

"Not in a million years," giggled Carrie.

"Life isn't any fun if you aren't learning new things," said Belle. "Speaking of, Pook, Saav, can I use your computer? I want to look at the NASA site again."

Pook reached over and pawed the girls' laptop on. "Sure, Belle. They have some really cool pictures on there."

"Oh, dear," moaned Bart. "Here we go. Outer space. Planets. Asteroids. Meteors. Stars. Another sleepless night."

"Yep, looks like it," sighed Meows, but he got out of Suzanna's lap and went over to the little student at the laptop with a smile.

The first of December brought rough weather. Suzanna was glad she lived behind the B&B; Carrie was more than grateful she lived above the shop. A vicious ice storm hit the area, followed by a severe snowstorm that buried the little town in over a foot of snow and ice. Joyce missed two days at work; she could not get out, and Bart, Belle, and Meows missed Pook and Saav at the shop. Temperatures hovered well below freezing, and power was out in many areas. This wasn't unusual in the mountain town, but it was always difficult.

Power went out on the B&B block downtown for a few hours, and while the power company worked frantically to restore power, the fire department, armed with chain saws, cleared the front yard where a tree had fallen on a power line. Suzanna had all the fireplaces going in the parlors and library, and the generator in the back supplied some power to the kitchen.

The guests at Sunshine Inn didn't seem to mind the inconvenience. They came downstairs when the lights went out and gathered around the fireplaces, talking and having coffee. Sunshine, loaned to an elderly guest for the night, sat in the lady's lap as the other guests admired him. There was one guest's dog, a huge German Shepherd, who seemed to like cats and kept

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